2019 is an important year for Land Rover. Not only is it the 25th anniversary of the Range Rover P38a it is also 30 years since the Land Rover Discovery was released. We take a look at how the success story came about…
Land Rover sales had been dwindling and it was unclear why. Land Rover had previously sold the legendary Series models with great success as well as the utilitarian 90 and 110 models still on offer. The luxurious and competent Range Rover was also performing strongly with its high-end customers.
With new competition from Japan, including the Isuzu Trooper and Mitsubishi Shogun, Land Rover became aware they needed to deliver a vehicle that could deliver the rugged off-road capabilities of the Series and Defender models, combined with an element of luxury that would be more familiar to drivers of the Range Rover.
The Discovery workhorse was born!
Codenamed Project Jay, the Discovery’s aim was to provide a more affordable, mass-market SUV that would appeal to a new generation of ‘lifestyle-orientated’ consumers, most of whom were usually slightly younger and in more need of family-based transport than more traditional drivers of Land Rover’s fleet.
The Land Rover Discovery was Launched in 1989 at the Frankfurt Motor Show and managed to revitalise the Land Rover market. The Discovery instantly became an incredible Land Rover success story
The Discovery was an alternative take on what we now refer to as the Range Rover Classic. Despite being significantly cheaper, the Discovery used a significant proportion of the more expensive Range Rover’s components including the chassis, drive train, and body frame.
Like its cousin the Range Rover Classic, the Discovery’s combination of generous ground clearance and coil springs allowed it to iron out rough terrain and problematic potholes as if they were never there. Gearboxes initially came as five-speed manuals, incorporating both high and low-range ratios, while four-wheel drive and a lockable centre differential worked to direct torque to where it was needed, visibly improving traction on tricky surfaces.
Enter the 5 door version
The five-door version was released in 1990 before automatic transmission also became available two years later.
In 1994, twin airbags enhanced the Discovery’s safety at the same time that the diesel engine became more refined and the front grille was modified to include larger headlamps.
Meanwhile, the interior benefitted from an update courtesy of Sir Terence Conran, while new ‘ES’ specification offered extra luxury finishes such as leather upholstery and air conditioning. Further trim options – the XS and GS – soon followed.
Some 700 Argyll special editions appeared in 1997 before the Discovery then evolved and re-launched as the Mk2 the following year.
Today, we are on the fifth generation Discovery and it continues to sell strongly for Land Rover.
You can find out more about the upcoming Land Rover Legends at the Land Rover Legends show in Bicester 25-26 May
Do you own an original Discovery? Let us know in the comments below.